Motorcycle drag racing began in the United States during the 1950s
as an offshoot of automobile drag racing. One form of drag racing
takes two competitors, lines them up at a dragstrip and, once
given the starting signal (typically a staging light), the riders
accelerate down a 1/4-mile long two-lane, paved track where their
elapsed time (ET) and terminal speed are recorded. The rider who
reaches the finish line first is the winner. To ensure close competition,
drag racing is divided into classes that pit evenly matched bikes
against each other.
ET Racing, commonly called Bracket racing, is a second form of
motorcycle drag racing that evolved in the 1960s as an alternative
to increasingly expensive class racing. It allows bikes of varying
performance levels to compete head-to-head. At an ET race, competitors
are paired and each one selects a time that they think their motorcycle
will run, called the "dial-in". The slower machine gets
a head start equal to the difference in dial-in times. The strategy
to winning is to predict what the motorcycle will run and not
go faster. Running quicker than the dial-in is called a "break
out" and results in a loss; this can occur when the rider
chooses a dial-in that is too slow. Choosing a dial-in that is
too quick can allow an opponent to cross the finish line first.
If both racers break out, the bike that breaks out in the least
amount of time wins.
The first sanctioning organization for drag racing was the National
Hot Rod Association (NHRA), formed by Wally Parks in 1951. Two
years earlier, Parks had organized the campaign to open Utah's
Bonneville Salt Flats for hot rod speed trials. He was instrumental
in the start-up of Hot Rod magazine and, as the magazine's editor,
used Hot Rod as a platform to promote NHRA-sanctioned events and
racers. What would become the world's largest motorsports g overning
body was primarily focused on automobile-based drag racing at
the start. But it wasn't long before two-wheelers were competing
in NHRA events as well.
One of the best known motorcycle drag racers of the early era
was Russ Collins. By the mid-1960s, he was an authority on high-performance
motorcycle engines. In 1969, Collins began racing Honda 750s in
NHRA events and through his company, RC Engineering, designed
the first four-into-one motorcycle exhaust header. Collins's continued
success foreshadowed the coming dominance of Japanese-based drag
bikes at a time when Triumph and Harley-Davidson ruled the sport.
In the 1970s, two of Collins's employees, Terry Vance and Byron
Hines, began racing and the pair enjoyed remarkable drag-racing
success spanning several decades. Like RC Engineering, their company,
Vance & Hines, has become a dominant force in motorcycle drag
AMA/Prostar traces its roots to a one-time "race for the
championship" organized in October 1989 at Atco Raceway in
New Jersey by Keith "Scooter" Kizer and Jack O'Malley,
the late owner of Orient Express High Performance Motorcycle Components.
Originally the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) Motorcycle
Division, the fledgling organization ran under the IHRA banner
for only its first year before adopting the Prostar name. Kizer
took over the reigns in mid-1993 and, with the blessing of the
American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), changed the name to AMA/Prostar
to become the AMA's official drag-racing arm. The Prostar sanctioning
organization was acquired by the AMA in 2002 and today operates
as the AMA/Prostar Championship Series.
AMA/Prostar is the world's largest all-motorcycle drag-racing
sanctioning body. Based in Huntsville, Alabama, its events attract
top racers from around the globe to compete on U.S. tracks. All
motorcycle brands are welcomed and they compete in a number of
classes. For 2005, the organization sanctions 16 classes, from
Top Fuel to Street ET, at eight event venues. Pro Street is the
class in which Stotz Racing campaigns the turbocharged Honda CBR1100XX.
Kent Stotz was instrumental in helping AMA/Prostar develop the
foundation and rules for the Street Bike Shootout class, the precursor
to Pro Street. For street racers looking to go to the track, the
new class was an obvious option because it didn't stray too far
from stock production models. The AMA/Prostar rules permitted
the use of turbocharging or nitrous oxide, allowed a maximum wheelbase
of 68 inches, at least two inches of ground clearance, a working
headlight and taillight, a fully functional charging system and
DOT-approved tires. Wheelie bars could not be used. To ensure
that the rules were obeyed, a random 12-mile road test was developed
that had to be completed by all race bikes, after which each bike
had to be shut off and restarted within one minute.
The Street Bike Shootout class rules rewarded innovative thinking
and out-of-the-box engineering, skills that defined Stotz's approach
to racing. To meet the challenge, Stotz pioneered the use of electronic
fuel injection (EFI) and turbocharging and soon earned the reputation
as the best development rider in the paddock. In 1995, he won
his first national championship aboard a 1989 EFI, turbocharged
Suzuki GSX-R1100. Three years later, in 1998, he took his second
Streetbike Shootout title aboard a 1995 water-cooled GSX-R1100.
Then in 1999, Stotz began his successful collaboration with American
Honda Motor Company. Officially sponsored by the Honda Rider's
Club of America (HRCA), the two-time national champ set about
developing Honda's CBR1100XX into a winning platform. The Honda
engine was built like a tank and withstood the rigors of turbocharging
with many of the original stock components still in place. Following
a year of R&D, the payoff came in 2001 when he dominated the
season to capture his third title. The following year Stotz repeated
the feat, earning an unprecedented fourth AMA/Prostar Street Bike
To date, Stotz is the only multi-time champion in the class. As
the competition heated up in the ensuing years, numerous records
fell. Stotz set many of them, the most notable being the quickest
ET and the first streetbike record over 200 mph (7.256 seconds
at 200.49 mph), which he achieved in the first round of eliminations
at the 2004 season-ending finals in Gainesville, Florida. The
ET record was stolen away just one round later by the eventual
2004 champion--Stotz's friend and former teammate, Barry Henson
(7.254 seconds)--but Stotz's top speed record remains in the books.
During the decade between 1995 and 2005, AMA/Prostar revised the
class rules several times in an effort to level the playing field
for Stotz's competitors. For example, at the end of 2001 the two-step
RPM launch controls that Stotz had perfected were outlawed. And
at the end of 2003 season, intercoolers (another feature perfected
by Stotz) were eliminated. More recently, in an effort to keep
the bikes streetable, AMA/Prostar reworked the Street Bike Shootout
Class rules to include a one-inch increase in ground clearance
(three inches total) and a two-inch increase in ride height (now
22 inches). They renamed the series Pro Street for 2005.
Undaunted, Stotz countered with major changes to the induction
and electronic control systems on the Honda, netting 65 more horsepower
(550-plus overall) while running the same 30 pounds of boost.
Stotz also pared away 30 pounds in overall weight, allowing the
XX to accelerate more rapidly. The results to date have been record-setting.
At Norwalk Ohio's Raceway Park in July 2005, Stotz ran the quickest
ET of the year in AMA/Prostar Pro Street Class competition--7.36
seconds at 197 mph. One month later in Indianapolis, Stotz raised
the bar another notch, setting the 1/8-mile speed record at 159
Stotz's savvy business acumen led him to collaborate with the
NOPI (Number One Parts, Inc.) Drag Racing Association (NDRA) at
the end of 2004 to launch the organization's first foray into
500-plus horsepower street-tire motorcycle drag racing. He brought
along his main underwriter, the HRCA, as sponsor of the new Pro
Street Tire Bike class. NOPI is known for its wildly popular sport-compact
drag racing series that draws tens of thousands of fans, not only
for the four-wheel drag-racing action, but also for the added
attractions of car and bike shows and live bands. Thanks to Stotz,
NOPI became the latest venue to showcase the excitement of high-tech,
500-plus horsepower street motorcycles to drag-racing fans everywhere.
To back that up, Stotz set the quickest ET of any Pro Street Tire
Bike competitor at a NOPI event--7.44 seconds at 195 mph--at Bristol
Dragway in Tennessee in July 2005.
What will the future bring to Pro Street tire racing? The quest
for reliable horsepower has dominated the class over the last
few years. The challenge now is learning how to get all that power
to the ground through a street tire. The teams that understand
suspension dynamics and the art of applying power smoothly will
be the next champions. Count on Stotz Racing to lead the way.